We were told there were at least two (and possibly more) Skeptical Doctor readers who joined the Friends of the New Criterion specifically for this event, and Clint and I enjoyed speaking with at least one of them: a smart, polite and good-natured Manhattanite named Adam.
Back in May Dalrymple addressed the Sixth Annual Meeting of the Property and Freedom Society in Bodrum, Turkey. It was his third address to the group in as many years, and his speech described “The Mirage of Equal Opportunity”:
If one were serious about equality of opportunity, one would be a totalitarian so thoroughgoing as to make North Korea seem like a libertarian paradise. Only clones could be born and no parent could have any influence on the upbringing of his or her child, for fear of introducing inequality. Every child would receive exactly the same treatment, preferably from machines. A society of equality of opportunity would be one in which no parent could express in words or in action a preference for his own child, or to procure advantages for him or her, in case it should prejudice the chances of another child. I leave it to you to decide whether a society in which parents held no particular brief for their own children as against all the others in the world would be an attractive one. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World would be but a beginning, not an end.
We mentioned in an earlier post that the Belgian think tank Libera! awarded Dalrymple its Laudatio Prize of Liberty, which they award for “special merit in the fight for freedom”. The group has just posted the speeches from that event online.
There is a speech in Dutch by Kristof Van der Cruysse, the President of Libera!, here. Perhaps a Dutch-speaking reader could summarize it for us?
Dalrymple was introduced by Bart De Wever, the president of the largest political party in Belgium and the man who by rights should perhaps be Prime Minister of the country. De Wever considers Dalrymple his intellectual mentor, and several statements from his speech are worthy of note.
On the main lesson of Dalrymple’s work: “Social policies need to focus on the empowerment of people, if you really want to help them.”
On the essay (“Fans behaving badly are at the heart of selfish England”) that first got De Wever’s attention: “It cut straight to the heart of the social premises that founded the Purple government and therefore demonstrated to me that it was possible to translate a traditional liberal and moderate conservative discourse in a modern and socially relevant way. The publication of Life at the Bottom a year later strengthened that conviction and probably laid the foundation for my own modest attempts of being a columnist.”
On Dalrymple’s efforts fighting moral relativism: “I believe the significance of Theodore Dalrymple’s writings lie exactly in the exposure of this ideological masquerade. With every essay, another sham of political correctness is debunked. At the turn of the century, this was unheard of, maybe even unthinkable. Dr. Dalrymple was one of the first to voice an opposing opinion in a compulsive intellectual climate. He had obstacles to overcome and still is as much praised as lauded.”
De Wever’s speech is here.
Dalrymple’s Gustave de Molinari Lecture in acceptance of the award summarizes his criticisms of modern Western political thought, mostly by reference to Great Britain. I found these passages most interesting:
I have conducted little research that could be called scientific, and I am certainly not an academic. And I haven’t really even formulated a consistent philosophy or even tried to do so. And lack of theoretical rigour is an accusation often brought, perhaps justly, against British intellectual life and tradition, which is marked by an unformed empiricism. However, there are also certain advantages to such a tradition (which incidentally is now dying out, much to my own country’s detriment), one of the advantages being a refusal to view reality through the lens of an arcane and elaborate and much cherished theory…
Well, let me tell you what I regard as my most fundamental discovery (I mean it was a discovery for me, and not for anyone else in the rest of the world) that nevertheless quite a lot of people still find deeply shocking: that poor people, whether they be poor in the absolute or relative sense, are fully conscious human beings who are endowed with the capacity to think, to calculate, desire, make decisions and so forth, in the same way that more fortunately placed people do… [We] ought never to forget that those consequences [of being poor] are greatly affected and modified by the mentality of the poor, and that this mentality is itself affected not merely by material but more importantly by cultural circumstances, and above all by ideas.
Dalrymple’s speech is here.
On Wednesday, June 8th Dalrymple will participate in the ongoing Intelligence Squared debate series at Cadogan Hall in London, siding with Amy Chua in support of the resolution “Western parents don’t know how to bring up their children”.
Chua became virtually a household name in America overnight with this controversial January piece in the Wall Street Journal, excerpting her since-published blockbuster Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother criticizing Western childrearing. It is difficult to overstate the article’s ubiquity as a topic of conversation in the US in the days following its publication. She will undoubtedly make an appropriate and formidable partner for the author of Spoilt Rotten. The debate will be viewable live online for free. Viewers can even submit questions and vote to determine the winners.
Dalrymple has participated in two previous Intelligence Squared debates in support of the resolutions “Psychotherapy has done more harm than good“ and “Prison works“. From the organization’s website:
Now operating in London, New York, Sydney, Hong Kong, Kiev and Abuja, Intelligence Squared provides a unique platform for the world’s leading figures in politics, journalism, and the media to contest the most important political, social, historical and scientific issues of the day….Employing the classic “Oxford Union” style of debating, the world’s leading speakers are pitched against each other with a clearly defined motion, to try and win over the votes of the audience through a mixture of impassioned rhetoric, persuasion and charm. Buy your tickets online.
Intelligence Squared debates are unique. Whereas most broadcasters create debates specifically for television, we film our live debates as they happen and then screen them internationally on television. Since January 2009, Intelligence Squared debates have been shown globally on BBC World News to an estimated audience of over 70 million people.
H/t Michael P.
Dalrymple recently spoke at The Iona Institute in Ireland on the subject of the economic crisis there (and throughout the Western world). In keeping with views he has expressed elsewhere, he blames the crisis on a modern outlook that has rendered the cardinal virtues increasingly unpopular:
Thus we see governments viewing or at any rate subconsciously recognising easy credit and asset inflation as a way of courting popularity, a popularity necessary in order that they should retain the power that, as individuals, they craved and which they made the main aim of their lives. If in the process it meant the large scale corruption of the population, so be it. And, for reasons only too obvious to mention, bankers were happy to go along with it.You can read the text of the speech here (hat tip: Ravi).
An avidity for power, then, combined with a deeply materialistic outlook on life, which regarded an increased level of consumption as the summum bonum of human existence, lay behind the crisis, and certainly not only in Ireland. Greed, either for power or easy gain, acted everywhere in our societies.
Apparently Dalrymple spoke to the Gladstone Club, at the National Liberal Club, in London a week ago. Author and Liberal Democrat politician Jonathan Fryer had kind words for him and his presentation on his blog (the first link above). It’s good to see our man receiving praise from people one wouldn’t generally expect to offer it, and it’s always nice to see this kind of comity between the various sides of the public debate.
There seems to have been no recording of the event.
UPDATE: Peter Fennell, the Secretary of the Gladstone Club, has helpfully provided a summary of Dalrymple’s remarks. His speech compares the state of civilization in Britain and France and concludes that France is doing better. You may view it here.
One interesting quote:
Daniels offers no statistics on ugliness but muses that its prevalence here is less innate than cultivated. Young men go to considerable lengths to achieve a look of brutality with shaven heads, piercings and tattoos. To which might be added the fashion for sub-hipster, drop crotch jeans which literally is ‘prison chic’ from the American gaols where dangerous criminals are denied belts. Some adopt the look perhaps because they are dangerous criminals. Some who are not say they do so to deter attack by those who are.
Last month Dalrymple spoke at the Property and Freedom Society’s fifth annual meeting in Bodrum, Turkey on the subject “‘Public Health’ as a Lever for Tyranny”. You may watch the speech here. The good doctor also addressed the society’s two previous annual meetings. We never posted these earlier speeches, as the audio is poor, but now seems an appropriate time to do so for anyone interested in delving into them:
Dalrymple has participated in two of the Intelligence Squared debates that have recently become popular in London and New York. In 2007, he debated on behalf of the “For” side of the topic “Prison Works”, and earlier this year debated the topic “Psychotherapy has done more harm than good”, also on the “For” side (and in contrast to the position of his wife and fellow psychiatrist, who believes in the benefits of psychotherapy).
These debates are quite entertaining, and Dalrymple’s humor comes through in at least the first one (I haven’t yet watched the second one). His side won the day in the prison debate but wasn’t as fortunate in the one on psychotherapy.
Watch them here
By the way, the page includes a brief bio of Dalrymple — brief, that is, compared to this!
Update: The link above is not working, but this one seems to be.